Chef Ryan Hildebrand made a name for himself with Houston restaurants Triniti and FM Kitchen and Bar. The former closed in 2017 after five years of fine-dining service, and Hildebrand left the more casual FM Kitchen and Bar in 2019 ready for a new challenge. His latest project is Hildee’s Dine-Inn, which opened March 31 in Wimberley, a small town located about 45 minutes southwest of Austin.
Hildebrand and his wife began visiting Wimberley about 15 years ago. The town’s population is just over 3,000, but it’s a popular tourist destination prized for its access to nature and the Hill Country’s many wineries, breweries and distilleries.
“I immediately fell in love with the community and the area,” said Hildebrand. “I instantly thought it would be a great place to have a business and focus on serving and building the community here. Once we had children, the decision was even more clear.”
Hildee’s Dine-Inn was designed by Jay Knowles of Maker Architects, who enlisted natural materials like Douglas fir cladding and stone masonry in the construction. With its wood exterior and pitched tin roof, the building resembles a barn or rural dance hall. The interior bar and dining room cover about 1,000-square feet, with an additional 1,000-square feet of seating available on the outdoor patio.
Hildebrand hopes the restaurant will become a centerpiece of the community. “I became a chef because food brings people together,” he said. “We built Hildee’s from the ground up, but I wanted it to feel like it had been part of the landscape of this community for years.”
The menu is meant to be “seasonal and soulful” and features starters like confit tomato pie with farmer’s cheese ($14), and pork ribs with red beet barbecue sauce ($12). Mains include a burger with smoked cheddar and candied bacon jam ($16), chicken-fried venison with gravy ($24) and Texas red fish ($27).
Core menu items are complemented by seasonal dishes depending on what’s available, and current seasonal offerings include smoked chicken pozole verde with radish and cilantro salad ($12), and roasted broccolini with pistachios and tahini vinaigrette ($12). The drinks menu is stocked with local beers, cocktails made with local spirits, and wines from around the world.
Hildebrand is enjoying his new location, and says that his physical proximity to farms and ranches makes it easier to access ingredients and collaborate with them on menu items.
“We are trying to source not only from Texas ranches and farms but hyper-local partners that are within a short distance, not just for foods but breweries as well,” he said. “We source from our neighbors as much as possible.”
When creating his culinary team, Hildebrand enlisted colleagues from his time at Triniti in Houston. Chefs Pat Sommers and Caroline Gonzalez have signed on as chef de cuisine and head pastry chef, respectively.
“It’s always a good sign when people who worked in your kitchen in the past are excited to return,” said Hildebrand. “It feels a little bit like we’re getting the band back together.”
Hildebrand isn’t yet sure what the future holds, but he hopes to one day expand Hildee’s or open additional concepts.
“We are lucky enough to have the talent in Pat and Caroline that we can take on such a challenge, and hopefully highlight them in future endeavors as well.”